Deuwaindell's Journal

Things at Restenford are grim; that is the only way to describe it as rumors related to the Orc army spread. Evidence of desperation is as clear as the medallion I now carry; I've been conscripted into the 3'rd Company, apparently along with my semi-regular traveling party. Kele, Grimnal, Grendel, Thomas, and Biron have been hired (if you want to call it that; it was clear we wouldn't like the alternative) to escort Mage Geyser on a mission best described as trolling for IUZ. No prompting was required as I would have volunteered to travel with Mage Geyser under less favorable conditions. But it gave me pause to learn that Kele was considered the leader, with the title of Corporal. I mean really... Kele?? Clearly the qualities of intelligence are not how leaders are chosen in this military. But, I mind it not; Kele is not a bad choice and has not caused any real trouble by his actions. New to the group on this mission is Holger, a Cleric of Thor. I was surprised to not be accompanied by a Priest or Cleric of Athena but they are busy around town.

I have not (intentionally) directed harmful magic at a member of the party, but the first night of travel I came close to blasting Grendel. How could he kick my cat!? I told him if it happens again he will have an enemy. He tried to say that it was to protect his bunny. That was the lamest excuse I've heard since Klor left the party. The next night he suggested introducing the animals to each other. As I guessed, the bunny was nervous and my cat quickly bored, but Grendel seemed pleased. I will keep watch on him in any case.

Our first tense moment happened that second night when a man rode down the road toward us. As he got closer it became clear that neither the rider nor his horse were in good condition. He was near death due to an orc dart. We did what we could and determined from his clothing that he was a Sergeant in Restenford's army. He almost woke the next morning, but didn't and he never did tell us what happened to him or where.

The 4'th day out we saw IUZ. I had heard that some believed there was something about this party that attracts IUZ's attention (which is why we were chosen for this mission). Truth be told I hoped they were wrong. Nothing about this party should attract such attention; in any case Mage Geyser insisted on going to where IUZ seemed to appear and Grendel, Thomas, and I escorted him there. Mage Geyser set up his equipment, got out his books and scrolls, and began to study and perform magic that I felt almost to understand. The closest thing I can compare it to is augery. Though I watched through the day I did not learn much and Mage Geyser did not take time to teach. He seemed reasonably satisfied when it became too dark to read and he tore down his equipment.

Next morning we cross-country hike until we found another trail to follow and we again saw IUZ behind us; seemingly proving he is not just watching main roads. We rushed to where IUZ appeared and Mage Geyser picked up his investigation where he had left off.

When he finished, Geyser gave me his notebook to deliver to Restenford's Mage Academician Grivard. As Mage Geyser was done, we headed off to return to Restenford. Once a little away from the ridge IUZ appeared again. We had a feeling he was even more aware of us. After choosing to ride through the night we made it back to Restenford, got the sergeant more skilled treatment and turned the notebook over to Grivard.

We were not to stay in town long. A diplomatic mission sent to Ixtzul 6 weeks ago is overdue and we are to discover what became of it. The leader of the mission was named Mirandos and he had been traveling with a party of 12. Ixtzul is so far north that it often doesn't appear on maps. The next closer settlement, Tragidore, is often omitted as well. Ixtzul is interesting as it is rumored to not be a human settlement. If leaders of Restenford are desperate enough to make alliances with non-humans then the situation must be worse than I thought. If rumors are true that Ixtzul is populated by 10 feet tall ants then things will surely get interesting. For the common good, and to perhaps find a new type of magic, I am very willing to go on this mission.

To further guarantee the mission's success, I requested to see the Colonel of the KGB. He told me he could not supply me with any special aids for communication or otherwise, that no KGB contacts were in that part of the land, and as a word-for-the-wise, he further instructed me that in the future such requests be made through channels, and sent me on my way. Channels, indeed? What a waste.

Five days after returning from our last trip, we departed Restenford at dawn. Travel uneventful until the morning of the second day when 4 orcs tried to steal our horses. I Sleep-spell all of them. After briefly questioning the leader, all were killed. In war nobody is squeamish about eliminating enemies; it is to the greater good. Later that morning we saw IUZ again, but we continued north, had no further visions of him and were not bothered by orcs for some days.

Third day after passing through a tiny village we set up camp. The only adventure was a midnight attack by boars. It was a little exciting when one tried to gore Biron, but I was able to stop that with Magic Missiles and the other pigs were quickly dispatched.

Fifth day late the afternoon we arrived in Tragidore. Tragidore had less than ten buildings all told. But we were welcomed as warmly as any could expect in such times, as folk were eager for news. We were allowed to set up camp in a barn's hay loft.

Villagers confirmed that a diplomatic mission went through about 6 weeks ago, that residents of Ixtzul are giant ants, and they do some trading with them. They warn us, strongly, Ixtzuls are territorial and nobody who has crossed their border has returned. They say ants call themselves Bacar, have two casts (royals and workers), and communicate magically. Any solo worker is stupid but a group of 3 is about as smart as a young teen. The only exception to the "nobody who crossed their border has returned" is that one member of the diplomatic party wandered into town about a month ago. He is mind-missing and hasn't said anything so they don't know that he crossed the border, but can't otherwise explain what might have happened.

Nothing much happens that eve or the next day, other than our having to hunt up Biron after he got it into his head to go wandering outside the village... though of course that doesn't take much. We had dinner that eve at the house of the Headman, Zara. After which I made the pleasant discovery that the blacksmith owned a small copper still. He opened a flask of very good (suprisingly so) home-brew and I returned the favor by telling him of the orc army and IUZ. I recalled, vaguely, that we had been told to not babble our mission about, but it was only fair to warn outlying villages. I could tell that the blacksmith was an important person who deserved to know what was going on. After all, he might all too soon need to turn his hand to weapons. All too soon.

Two days later, while the only excitement was to wonder how far Biron was going to get with the Headman's daughter, Zena, we joined a party going from Tragidore to the trading post of the Bacar.

The only adventure, ignoring a close call for Kele from the attack of a large snake, came on the hot and muggy 4'th day after reaching Tragidore. About noon we encountered evidence of a fight; not more than 1/2 hour before someone had been in serious trouble. We followed tracks of blood and hoofprints. Shortly we caught up to a wounded Centaur; while we bound his wounds he told us that he hadn't seen the attackers but thought they were orcs. He further told us, in response to questions, that while Centaurs also trade with Bacar that is not why he is here. He was on to Tragidore to talk with humans and had a letter to get to the leaders of Restenford. When he heard that Kele lead a party from Restenford he gave that letter to him and seemed to view his task as done. He told us he would travel with us until tomorrow and then go on his way.

Next morning, seeking to discover the Centaur's village (a closely kept secret) so leaders of Restenford would be able to reply to their letter, I attempted Charm spell on him. That did not work and he told us that when a reply was delivered the messenger would be found.

Later, after the Centaur left, Kele opened the letter (after first convincing himself that it was in the interest of Restenford, and an appropriate action). The letter made an offer of alliance with the Centaurs to do battle with the orcs. While this seemed great news we had yet to discover what had happened to our diplomatic mission. We hoped to learn more about that shortly, as we arrived in the ant's trading village late afternoon that day.

While we saw some really large ants, Zara told us that the royal ant Quark, the ant that oversees the trading, was not around but would almost certainly appear the next day. (How he could tell one Bacar from another was beyond me.) Quick tests proved the territorial nature of the ants, so we had little more to do except set up camp. True enough, around noon the next day Quark appeared to do the trading, which was done with a lot of sign language. Though the words "No" and "Never" were common in well:

In fact Quark seemed to truly dislike magic, but I don't understand why. Limited communication made it difficult to ask questions about much of anything. As for the missing diplomats, eventually, it became clear Quark would only tell us what he could tell us later; we must wait. So we waited, not that we had much choice.

The next morning Zara and the Tragidore folk began their return home. That afternoon Holger told the party that he has a spell to hide himself and a few others from Bacar. So he, Grendel, and Thomas did a quick exploration (the spell does not last very long). They found something like an alter on one of the larger buildings, covered with Ant carvings but not showing any sign of blood (which I was glad to hear).

Seeing that the spell did work, that evening Grimnal, Holger, and I went exploring. We found a small building out of sight from the trading area, where the ants had disappeared earlier. We looked inside but couldn't see much except a down-sloping ramp; the door was then pulled shut abruptly. Taking this as a sign we returned to the human side of the trading area.

Early the next morning, about the 8'th day after arriving at Tragidore, Quark returned.

Quark told us the diplomatic party was alive and on Bacar territory. They were in prison for trespass "never". Penalty for trespass is Death "never". It was confusing! Other than learning the diplomats still lived the only good was that we were allowed to send them a message. A message was quickly drafted and Quark took it and departed.

The next evening, after much discussion, Kele, Holger, and I decided to explore. Our target was the building the ants disappeared into. After Holger cast his spell we ran to the small building. Kele opened the door and we went in and down the ramp. After the ramp leveled out we heard a loud roaring sound that none of us recognized. We followed the noise. Using heat-vision I was able to lead the group but Kele and Holger were quite lost in the dark and not at all happy about it. The noise lead us further down. We eventually came out on a long platform, where I detected a tunnel leading away as the roaring noise faded in the distance. After I described what I could we decided to get back out. As we hadn't made any complex turns and were able to work our way back up and out quickly.

Late afternoon the next day Quark returned. We were glad to see him as it was boring in the trading post with little we could do; we were more glad that he brought a package of messages, though all had had their seals broken. Quark was graciously thanked and we quickly reviewed the letters, finding most to be of a personal nature that I will not record, but one from Mirandos told the story of the expedition. With our mission now done we told Quark we would be leaving the next day and again thanked him.

The return to Tragidore went smoothly until we reached the point where the centaur had been attacked. Thomas and Grendel saw something in the woods and alerted us to the danger. It was a false alarm; no orcs were around to again spring a trap. But a crossbow was found, unloaded, fixed to a tree. It was indeed a well set trap as we also found 3 other bows, but other than that the trip to Tragidore was uneventful.

The evening we arrived in town a party was held (it takes little cause for humans to have a party, and we did have a bard with us). A while after dark Kele heard an odd noise. On investigating, at the end of town he found Zena's boyfriend had been knocked out. After taking him inside to get treated and alerting us of the possible danger, Kele, Grendel, Grimnal, and I went outside to discover what happened. It took little investigation as 4 orcs came charging in. Kele was hit by an arrow as was I. Grendel killed the orc that moved in to attack me and I then used the Color Spray spell, knocking the other 3 orcs unconscious. It was good that there were only 3 other orcs as the spell also knocked out Kele. He shouldn't have been in the way but it turned out for the best. We killed the orcs and went back to tell the villagers what had happened. An extra guard was placed that night, and I suspect that such will be the case for many nights to come.

We left the next morning and the only one sorry to go was Biron, who was disappointed he hadn't talked Zena into coming with us. We took the one 'surviving' member of the diplomatic mission with us, hoping that with more sophisticated treatment he might eventually recover. I did not think it likely, but it was not fair to leave him with the villagers of Tragidore.

The morning of the next day we saw a party of several horseman approaching us from the direction of Tragidore; it promised to become interesting when we saw it to be six Centaurs.

When they spread out in a skirmish line we began to seek cover or otherwise prepare for battle. Kele walked towards them openhanded and said "we mean no harm"; he then introduced himself. Clive, the leader of their group introduced himself and explained that they are heading to "Big Stone Town". When Kele said that that was where we were going it is agreed that they would travel with us. The explained that they found the other Centaur we had met (I'm not sure he ever gave a name) dead, didn't know whether or not he had fulfilled his mission, and were sending a larger party to make sure their message reached "Big Stone Town."

We finished our breakfast, broke camp and headed out. That day was uneventful unless one counts the evening performance of Biron and a Centaur, Carouso, as an event. It was good to see an attempt at cooperation; especially if humans and Centaurs are going to join to do battle with the orcs. But one felt that Carouso was more amused by Biron that anything else.

Third day out of Tragidore, late afternoon we saw smoke on the horizon. The Restenford group continued ahead on the road while the Centaurs made a flanking maneuver to come at the source of the smoke from a different direction. We soon discovered a lone farmhouse on fire. Kele's search for tracks yielded the non-surprising conclusion that it had been an orc attack. Biron went into the house and discovered 3 human bodies, recently dead.

Biron, Holger, and a Red Shirt formed a burial party. The rest decided it was important to go after the orcs while the trail was fresh. We decided it likely that orcs were destroying homesteads as they encountered them along the road. Centaurs, able to travel fastest, would try and get ahead of the orcs in something of an end-run. The rest of us double-timed it following the obvious trail left.

The second homestead, also burning, looked to be much the same as the first. But on approaching we could hear moaning sounds; somebody was still alive! We moved into the house with weapons drawn as the group of centaurs again came in from another direction. A young human male was found, moaning in the corner. Grendel stayed behind to bind his wounds and one of the centaurs stayed as well. We couldn't be sure that orcs wouldn't come back to finish the job, but feeling the trail was much hotter we continued the chase.

The next farmhouse was not burning when we arrived, but we could hear screams from inside. Thomas, Kele, myself, and Grimnal charged into the house and each were able to claim credit for killing one orc. We were not quite quick enough for one of the farmers who had already been killed, but we were able to bind the wounds of two survivors as well as Thomas, who was the only one injured in the fight.

A search of the orcs didn't turn up any of IUZ's medallions so we concluded this band had just decided to go on a rampage. About then the centaurs showed up and we agreed it was best to make camp near this homestead. Our afternoon's work had saved the lives of two kids and a woman. It would have been better if we could have been sooner, but one can only do the good that opportunity allows for.

The next day we escorted the three survivors into a small town and left them with friends and relatives. That afternoon we were again close enough to Restenford to see IUZ off on a ridge. We saw him again the next day, but were not further bothered by orcs or ambushes as we made it to the gates leading into Restenford. {Which concludes this journal entry.}